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Robert Woods returns the momentum to the Trojans

Freshman Robert Woods made the key play in USC’s 32-21 victory over Minnesota on Saturday, returning a third-quarter kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.

Woods’ first college touchdown erased a 14-13 Minnesota lead.

“As soon as I hit the hole, it was wide open, one on one with me and the kicker,” said Woods, who also caught four passes for 33 yards. "[Special teams] coach [John] Baxter always told me, ‘Never let the kicker stop you,’ so I knew I had to finish.”

USC quarterback Matt Barkley said the play electrified the Trojans.

“I was on the side where Woody caught the ball, so I was running down pretty much the whole sideline and looking at our team,” Barkley said. “Everyone was going crazy.”

Barkley emerged from the locker room with an ice pack on his right calf. He said he was sore after being pulled to the ground by his face mask in the fourth quarter.

Kiffin responds to Fulmer

Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said Lane Kiffin’s “arrogant attitude turned people off” and questioned how Kiffin got prestigious jobs at Tennessee and USC.

Fulmer said during CBS’ halftime show that Tennesseans felt betrayed by Kiffin when he left Knoxville “with basically his hat in his hand and a bunch of NCAA compliance questions.

“And often his arrogant attitude turned people off. The bigger question in my opinion is how does a guy like this end up with two jobs with historic football teams like Tennessee and USC?”

Kiffin said he was aware of Fulmer’s comments.

“I have great respect for Coach Fulmer and what he did at Tennessee and I wish him the best of luck,” Kiffin said. “See, I’m getting mature.”

Keeping a promise

Sophomore safety Jawanza Starling’s second-quarter interception fulfilled a promise he made to his mother, Patricia.

“I promised my mom because it’s her birthday that I would get a pick,” Starling said. “So it’s a good thing I got it.”

The interception also pulled Starling even with fellow sophomore safety T.J. McDonald, who intercepted a pass last week against Virginia.

“We compete against each other every day in practice to see who’s going to get the most, so we keep pushing each other,” he said.

Failure to convert

USC did not convert any of three two-point conversion attempts, but Kiffin said there were no plans to eliminate them.

Quarterback Mitch Mustain was stopped on a rushing attempt in the second quarter, Barkley’s pass was broken up in the third quarter and tailback Marc Tyler was stopped short of the goal line in the fourth quarter.

“If nothing else, it gives [opponents] something to prepare for the next week,” Mustain said.

Numbers game

Joe Houston, who kicks field goals and extra points, and Jacob Harfman, who handles kickoffs and punts for USC, both wore No. 10.

A USC spokesman said Harfman switched from 48 to 10 because reserve fullback Hunter Simmons, who also wears No. 48, was on the kickoff coverage unit. Sophomore receiver De’Von Flournoy wears No. 10, but Flournoy, who might redshirt, was not on the trip.

Kiffin said freshman receiver Markeith Ambles was not on the trip because he might redshirt. Ambles, however, played a few plays against Hawaii.

Emotional day

Minnesota Coach Tim Brewster said after the game that his team was trying to “really do something special” for Connor Cosgrove, a freshman receiver who was diagnosed for leukemia. Connor is the son of co-defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove.

“They poured their hearts and their efforts into doing something special,” Brewster said. “There is great disappointment that we didn’t get the job done.”

gary.klein@latimes.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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